Friday, June 22, 2012

Talk Hard

Every week, my body seems to require one sleepless night and last night, I filled that quota.  Normally the cause is reflection on the events of the day, too much caffeine, or those asshole neighbors across the street that never seem to shut up… but this time it was entirely own doing.

I’m currently staring at a sunrise with heavy eyes because of my love for a lesser-known Christian Slater movie, “Pump Up the Volume”.  I got home, tossed my keys on the kitchen table, went to my room, settled in bed and closed my eyes expecting to sleep... but the urge to watch it for the tenth time was an unstoppable force.  My attachment to this 22 year-old piece of young-adult cinema isn't because of the old-school Beastie Boys references, its cliché "mysterious geek" storyline, the conflict with school administrators, not even the jokes about chronic masturbation.  It’s idea of a lone voice speaking for the underdog and being heard by society.

But I like chronic masturbation...

In the movie, Christian Slater plays a shy high schooler forced to move with his parents from the East Coast to a cookie-cutter suburb in Arizona.  There, he starts his own late night pirate radio show as “Happy Harry Hard-On”, gaining a significant following by the kids at his school.  The plot then grows into a conflict that is a commentary on media’s role in free speech in America.  The last two words of the script, "talk hard" I found interesting, in a cheesy kind of way.  Just like Happy Harry Hard-On, I dug it.

“Talk hard,” he said earlier in the movie, “I like that.  I like the idea that a voice can just go somewhere, uninvited.  Just kinda hang out, a dirty thought in a nice clean mind.  A dirty thought is like a virus, it can kill all the healthy thoughts and take over.”

The premise of the movie got me thinking, as you might've guessed, but it also brought me down a bit.  I took a quick look around and realized there is very little chance of something like this ever happening.  Why, because the premise is unrealistic? Hell no. Well, not in 1990 at least. It won’t happen because it isn't 1990 anymore, its 2012.

Pause for a moment and think about all of the social media sites you’re involved with.  Personally, I’m on five – Facebook, LitReactor, Red Room, Blogger, and WordPress – and considering the times we live in, that’s a pretty conservative amount.  Off the top of my head, I can think of another six major sites that are along the same lines.  These days, if the narcissist that dwells in every one of us wants to be heard… it will be.


The internet has become The Great Equalizer.  There are all of these mediums for people to speak out, and most have nothing to say!  It’s become this one loud noise of monotonous pseuso-self-expression and it takes a small miracle for someone with substance to surface among the huddled, noisy digital masses.

No, I’m not claiming to be one of those people.  Cool your jets, Ace.

It’s not just the abundance of useless crap that’s clogging the pipes, either.  It’s the ass-backwards popularity curve that has grown alongside the internet; the obsession with celebrity news over world issues.  I’ve learned to tune out such things by avoiding the “Entertainment” tab on the CNN & MSNBC websites and skipping past the E! channel when I’m looking for something to watch on TV, but I’d have to live as a hermit in the mountains to not notice how many people are wondering if Kim & Kanye are going to get hitched.

No, I’m not claiming to be one of these people, either.  Pipe down, Bub.

Do you think Happy Harry Hard-On’s 2012 version would be talking about whether or not Travolta is gay? I should say not, Harry’s angst was how teenage angst should be; driven, original & creative and back in 1990, being the only kid in down with the means of reaching out to others on a grand scale was definitely possible.  Today on the other hand, he wouldn't stand a chance against Perez Hilton's pathetic excuse for an abortion of a news blog.

Seriously, fuck that guy.  I sometimes feel actual pain knowing that he's making piles of cash for getting the scoop on a speculative boob job photo of a celebrity and pointing it out via Microsoft Paint's Spray Can feature, set to bright pink.

Pictured:  the fucking Devil.

It saddens me, knowing that people with something meaningful to say are being drowned out by empty sensationalism.  Will we ever get another lone voice like Happy Harry Hard-On?  I like to think so.  History always repeats itself and history has had a few of these guys already.  From historical figures like Socrates, all the way to free speech advocates like Lenny Bruce, and the unfathomable number of others in between.  Each one of these people had the need and drive to yell over everyone else and educate them at the same time.

The problem I see now is the drive that pushes that kind of person can, nowadays, easily be matched by technology that’s within the grasp of any asshole with an internet connection (guilty…).  Being heard is too fucking easy, you no longer have to work for it!  The ease of it means, while a few of these people saying something worth listening to are rising to the surface, they’re also accompanied by a horde of others that want to tell the world about their cat, collection of Elvis dishes, or their handful of Instagram photos they took of a chair.  Fuck it, I’ll just cut through the crap and say it…

It’s my belief that not everyone was meant to reach out to the world.

This may seem like a touchy subject for some people humping the Bill of Rights, saying "How dare you suggest that not everyone be given their right to free speech!"  To which I reply, "That’s not exactly what I’m saying, however, it IS my very right to suggest that anyway.  So please, go touch yourself to a picture of Thomas Jefferson and quit bothering people.”  I’m just saying that some people need to shut up.

On that note…
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Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Alpha Bird

It's a pleasant day, so I thought I would clean out my car.  In it I found a notebook that I hadn't touched in a month.  In fact, I forgot it even existed.  I opened it and found a few pages I had filled up in quite a hurry.

Seeing as how in recent days I've been distracted by another endeavor revolving around The Written Word, I thought I'd convert those pages into 11pt. Calibri and share 'em.

It was one of the first beautiful mornings of the season.  The idea of neglecting the warm air by sitting in the same coffee shops I had inhabited all winter felt like a grand injustice, so the drive thru and a little freeway driving was the name of the game.  By the time I passed Miller Park, the urge to be a deep/mysterious/soulful/pretentious wordsmith overcame me, so I made for the lakefront. 

Down by Bradford Beach, I found a little unmarked parking lot nestled right up against the water.  It was only nine in the morning and there was already a score of cars parked with their owners relaxing in the driver’s seat, windows open.  I found a space that was relatively secluded and had a nice view of the harbor to the south.  Opening my notebook and clicking my pen into the ready position, I gazed through my windshield, foolishly expecting divine inspiration.

It’s really tough to feel deep & soulful when time and time again, you prove to yourself that you're anything but.  The first ten minutes of sitting in front of a beautiful view was spent trying to pinpoint a seagull that had a different call than the others.  It almost sounded like he was mocking his friends. 

Another car pulled up and parked nearby.  The birds must have recognized the car, because soon after he turned his engine off, they swarmed him like some kind of Hitchcock knockoff.  My suspicions were confirmed after he opened his windows and began to toss bits of bread onto the ground – it seemed to me that he was a frequent visitor.  Seeing the birds fight over their breakfast turned into a lesson of dominance in the wild.

The seagull with the sarcastic call swooped in and stood before the others and their food, raising his wings.  The Alpha Bird had made his introduction to the meal and his disciples turned around, defeated.  Many flew away to other cars, seeking new means of morning nourishment.

The clouds above us opened up, and the sun transformed the water from an endless blue-grey cloth flapping in the wind, into a great plane of crystals, shuffled around by the Moon’s gravitational pull.

The man in that car decided to fancy himself as some kind of National Geographic documentarian, as he brought out his cellphone and began to film the two or three birds that decided to set up shop on the hood of his car.  Bit by bit, he lured them closer to his window to get a better shot for his soon-to-be YouTube failure.

Then it happened.

He accidentally dropped a handful of his stale, torn-up ammunition into his car and the Alpha Bird seized the opportunity, hopping into the cabin of the car.  What followed was ten to fifteen seconds of the most amazingly funny commotion I've been lucky enough to witness in years... four, at least.

The Alpha Bird, not to be trifled with, immediately began flapping his wings in the face of the one-time documentarian.  He tried to return the favor in defense of himself – without any sort of luck.  Faced (heh heh) with the harsh reality of nature wanting to feed, he found just enough clarity in the chaos to find the door handle.  Opening the door and tumbling out was his only reaction, out onto the pavement covered in bird shit – thanks to his want to feed & film birds that people see all the time.  With his hands and knees covered in seagull excrement, he couldn’t think to do anything but watch as the (then) three or four birds tumbled around and made a mess of his makeshift film studio/stale bread depository.

Did I lend this man a helping hand?  No.  His stupidity deserved a reckoning and I still had some coffee left.
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